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John Dewey - Experience and Nature (1925, 1929)

John Dewey - Experience and Nature (1925, 1929)

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Published by: Yiannis Isidorou on Oct 10, 2010
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Excerpts from:
Experience and Nature, 1925,
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John Dewey
0 Preface
p. v .... The office of physical science is to discover those properties and relations of things in virtue of which they are capable of being used as instrumentalities; physicalscience makes claim to disclose not the inner nature of things but only thoseconnections of things with one another that determine outcomes and hence can beused as means. The
nature of events is revealed in experience as the
John Dewey.
Experience and Nature
. Open Court, Chicago, 1925.
(Revised):London: GeorgeAllen & Unwin. Currently in print: New York: Dover, 1958. Also in:
The Later Works
, Volume 1, Carbon-dale, 1981, with an introduction by Sydney Hook. Page numbers here refer to the 1929 edition. Excerptsand remarks by G. Pate: October, November 1996.
Marginals added and set by L
TEX with Hyperref in Adobe Times from DewErfNa.tex. 23 May 2000.pdf by dvips and ps2pdf. email: GlenPate@acm.org
exerpts from
John. Dewey:
Experience and Nature 
2immediately felt qualities of things. The intimate coordination and even fusion of these qualities with the regularities that form the objects of knowledge, in the propersense of the work ”knowledge,” characterizes intelligently directed experience, asdistinct from mere casual and uncritical experience. ....p. vi .... That character of everyday experience which has been mostsystematically ignored by philosophy is the extent to which it is saturated with theresults of social intercourse and communication. Because this factor has been denied,meanings have either been denied all objective validity, or have been treated asmiraculous extra-natural intrusions. If, however, language, for example, is recognizedas the instrument of social cooperation and mutual participation, continuity isestablished between natural events (animal sound, cries, etc.) and the origin anddevelopment of meanings. Mind is seen to be a function of social interactions, and tobe a genuine character of natural events when these attain the stage of widest and mostcomplex interaction with one another. Ability to respond to meanings and to employthem, instead of reacting merely to physical contacts, makes the difference betweenman and other animals; it is the agency for elevating man into the realm of what isusually called the ideal and spiritual. In other words, the social participation affectedby communication, through language and other tools, is the naturalistic link whichdoes away with the often alleged necessity of dividing the objects of experience intotwo worlds, one physical and one ideal.p. viii ... The meanings that form mind become consciousness, or ideas,impressions, etc., when something within the meanings or in their applicationbecomes dubious, and the meaning in question needs reconstruction.p. ix .... Philosophy, then, is a generalized theory of criticism. Its ultimatevalue for life-experience is that it continuously provides instruments for the criticismof those values – whether of beliefs, institutions,actions or products – that are foundin all aspects of experience.
1 Experience and Philosophic Method
p. 1aThe title of this volume, Experience and Nature, is intended to signify that thephilosophy here presented may be termed either empirical naturalism or naturalistic
empiricism, or, .. naturalistic humanism.p. 2aIn the natural sciences there is a union of experience and nature ..., the inquirermust use empirical method if his findings are to be treated as genuinely scientific. Theinvestigator assumes as a matter of course that experience, controlled in specifiableways, is the avenue that leads to the facts and laws of nature. He uses reason andcalculation freely; he could not get along without them. But he sees to it that venturesof this theoretical sort start from and terminate in directly experienced subject-matter.Theory may intervene in a long course of reasoning, many portions of which areremote from what is directly experienced. But the vine of pendant theory is attachedat both ends to the pillars of observed subject-matter. And this experienced material isthe same for the scientific man and the man in the street. The latter cannot followtheintervening reasoning without special preparation. But stars, rocks, trees, andcreeping things are the same material of experience for both.
exerpts from
John. Dewey:
Experience and Nature 
3p. 4a........ It is not experience which is experienced, but nature – stones, plants,animals, diseases, health, temperature, electricity, and so on. Things interacting incertain ways are experience; they are what is experienced. Linked in certain otherways with another natural object –the human organism – they are
things areexperienced as well. Experience thus reaches down into nature, it has depth. It alsohas breadth and to an indefinitely elastic extent. It stretches. That stretch constitutesinference.p. 1 .... Dialectical difficulties, perplexities due to definitions given to theconcepts that enter into the discussion, may be raised..... The very existence of scienceis evidence that experience is such an occurrence that it penetrates into nature andexpands without limit through it. .... in the case of natural science we habitually treatexperience as starting-point,and as method for dealing with nature, and as the goal inwhich nature is disclosed for what it is.p. 2 .... If experience actually presents esthetic and moral traits, then thesetraits may also be supposed to reach down into nature, and to testify to something thatbelongs to nature as truly as does the mechanical structure attributed to it in physicalscience. To rule out that possibility by some general reasoning is to forget that thevery meaning and purport of empirical method is that things are to be studied on theirown account, so as to find out what is revealed when they are experienced. The traitspossessed by the subject-matters of experience are as genuine as the characteristics of sun and electron. They are found , experienced, and are not to be shoved out of beingby some trick of logic. ....The scientific inquirer talks and writes about particular observed events andqualities, about specific calculations and reasonings. He makes no allusion to
no allusion toexperience
experience; one would probably have to search a long time through reports of specialresearches in order to find the word. The reason is that everything designated by theword ”experience” is so adequately incorporated into scientific procedures andsubject-matter that to mention experience would be only to duplicate in a general termwhat is already covered in definite terms.p. 23 [cf. (Rorty, 1982), p. 82]That the physiological organism with its structure, whether in man or in thelower animals, is concerned with making adaptations and uses of material in theinterest of maintenance of the life-process, cannot be denied. The brain and nervous
maintenance of the life-process,
system are primarily organs of action-undergoing; biologically it can be assertedwithout contravention that primary experience is of a corresponding type. Hence,unless there is breach of historic and natural continuity, cognitive experience mustoriginate within that of a noncognitivesort.
2 Existence as Precarious and as Stable
p. 44.... Through science we have secured a degree of power of prediction and of 
science ...powerof prediction andcontrol
control; through tools, machinery and an accompanying technique we have made theworld more conformable to our needs, a more secure abode. We have heaped up

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